The End of Exact Match Keywords: What Does It All Mean?


The End of Exact Match Keywords: What Does It All Mean?

Close Variant Keyword Matching For All!

On Thursday 14th August, Google announced that they would be making exact match keywords in AdWords redundant in their current form. The close variant keyword matching that Google had given advertisers the option to use on campaigns in the past is now going to be made a requirement as of September 2014.

So what does this mean?

If advertisers bid on Exact match keywords, what this used to mean was that Google would only show your ads if someone searched for that exact keyword. Now that Google are going to apply close variant keyword matching to exact match keywords, moving forwards ads will not just show for the exact keywords, they will also show for misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as sleep and sleeping), abbreviations and accents.

Here are some examples:


When is it happening?

This update is being rolled out at the beginning of September 2014 so advertisers don’t have long to act on this before it goes live. Usually with a change like this, AdWords would give advertisers a fair amount of warning but you literally have a couple of weeks to get your campaigns in a shape that will be ready for the update.

Why you should care

When the update goes live, advertisers should expect to see an increase in impressions and clicks and a decrease in Click through Rate (CTR) and Quality Score (QS). In turn, this will increase the average amount you are paying per click (CPC) making your overall spend with AdWords higher.

In order to get ahead of this update, advertisers are going to need to get to work now. They should be:

  • Pull off a report of all exact match keywords
  • Create a spreadsheet with each keyword in column A and then have all the different variations Google could potentially show this keyword for in future
  • Decide which you would not want your ads to appear for
  • Add these keywords as exact match negative keywords in the ad group or campaign
  • Wait for the update to happen in September and keep a close eye on your account
  • Run regular Search Query Reports and backfill the campaign with negative keywords as you find them
  • Keep a close eye on your CTR and QS and work to keep it as high as possible


Google have wrapped this update in a bubble saying that it will really benefit advertisers. In my opinion, it may benefit some of the smaller companies but in the grand scheme of things, Google have done this to make themselves more money. Check out this analysis from Dan Barker where he looks at one ad groups spend before and after the close variant keyword matching was applied. A big difference in spend!

If you want to read more on this topic, there have been a few posts published already here:

What do you think of this update? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Samantha Noble is the Digital Marketing Director at Koozai, a Digital Marketing Agency based in Southampton and London and event and brand manager on State of Digital and part of the editorial team.

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